Posted in Guild Wars

Guild Wars 2: Have undead minions, will travel

This past week, Eerie Emily continued her conquest of all of Guild Wars 2 early zones. I’m going through all of the zones by level, so newbie cities followed by beginner areas. It’s a whole lot of nostalgia, both bad and good, as I encounter some of these memories from yore. There are those extra-annoying hearts, though, such as running the bunny food, fighting as a snow leopard, and participating in a snowball fight. And that’s all just in a small section of Wayfarer Foothills.

I’ve been trying to make a more serious go of Guild Wars 2 this spring. But it is definitely taking an effort, because what used to be a very straight-forward game experience for me now seems obfuscated and confusing behind years of additions. In short, I need to figure out goals in a game that gives you a whole bunch of them but doesn’t really make any apparently better or more crucial than others. For now, mapping out zones and doing the odd personal story mission is fine, but I’m going to need more than that.

So I’ve been doing a lot of research into this to help organize and sort the different possible goals, because it really is hard to wrap your head around when you’ve been gone for a while or are new. I do what I do best these days, which is making up a list to organize and clarify. Oh, and I apparently just discovered that you can dye your mounts in this game, which is not a thing I thought existed.

Part of the result of this research was the decision to abandon my newbie Necromancer for my more advanced Engineer, which I renamed Photopsia. This is primarily because I wanted more options of what I was able to do in the game — primarily, hopping around the unlocked map more — and didn’t feel that strongly a need to go back through the personal story again.

And it was with good ol’ Photo here that I pushed myself into doing fractals, a part of the game that’s always intimidated me. I’m still getting my game legs back, and jumping into fractals feels like I’m plunging into a deep pool of chaotic fights and jumping puzzles and all that. But I’m determined not to be scared off by it, so a-jumpin’ I did go. And thanks to largely understanding and patient players, it’s not been bad.

My approach for now is to get my game legs back, work on building up hero points for my epic spec, do some dailies and fractals for money, and start in on End of Dragons. Hey, if it’s ending dragons, I’m all for it. But can this game survive not being able to talk about dragons every five seconds? It’ll be interesting to see.

I got a free makeover kit from the store, so I blew out my hair and went under the knife for some plastic surgery. I really like the “dawn” hair color.

And one has to have chonky armor if one is an Engineer. It’s only logical.

Posted in Guild Wars

Guild Wars 2: The ballad of Eerie Emily

I may be weird in this, but January always feels like a month that calls for brand-new characters — with the potential of a full year of adventuring in front of them. And since I already have regular characters I’m doing in LOTRO and ESO, I’ve been fishing about in my oldie MMO bin for another possibility. So for this week, at least, I found myself back in Guild Wars 2.

The last time I played GW2 more regularly than a brief flirtation was a stint in 2020 as I was all fired up to do Path of Fire and make this a main MMO again. And that only lasted April to May, so it’s not like it was one of my hotter streaks with this game. Like most MMOs, a longer return is rather dependent on three factors:

  1. Can I connect with a great community?
  2. Can I identify enticing goals to pursue?
  3. Is the gameplay loop clicking with me?

It’s too early to say here, of course, but I’ll be keeping those in mind.

In the meanwhile, I started over with a new Necromancer named Eerie Emily. If nothing else, mapping the world and doing the storylines will give me a long runway to figuring out what I really want to be doing in this game — and if I’m meant to be here right now.

Setting E.E. up took a good chunk of time spread over two days. There was equipment to be transferred, level boosts to get to 80, gear to be purchased from laurel vendors and the trading post, outfits to be colored, and other stuff to be sold to pay for it all. She’s not top-of-the-line, but she’s got a solid build and a decent beginner set of gear for an 80. Good enough to map, that’s for sure.

One of the perks of re-mapping this entire game is getting to play tourist and poke around the nooks and crannies. Here’s a little library in Divinity’s Reach that I always liked. MAN I wish this game had real housing.

Posted in Guild Wars

Guild Wars 2: A Virtuoso in training

For this week’s Guild Wars 2 adventure, I decided to create a new Mesmer and set her on a journey toward becoming a Virtuoso. I’m quite curious about the idea of a more psychic-based elite spec and wouldn’t mind checking it out. So say hello to Trillyra (trill + lyrics). I used a makeover kit from my bank to grab an exclusive hair dye and style, then I splurged on not one, not two, but three outfits from the store. Hey, don’t look at me like that! They were on sale, they all looked awesome, and I had gems to burn.

I’m not proud of it, but I danced to entertain a cow. He didn’t look amused at all. WHY CAN’T I PLEASE YOU, COW?

I do like this same color scheme more with Gwen’s outfit, though. It’s so iconic and perfect for a fellow Mesmer, dontcha think?

A bit of a closer look. I might go with a different pistol, but the rapier + corset look really works for this class. My daughter is totally in love with this character’s hairstyle, too.

My last new outfit is the Mist-something… Mist Walker? Mist Guard? Misty Meadows? I don’t remember and I’m too lazy to open back up the client. It definitely skews more toward heavy armor in looks, but I really dig the way that you’re always trailing this shadow/mist off the right side.

Posted in Guild Wars

Guild Wars 2: Ranger danger

To address my aforementioned S.O.S. (start over syndrome), I figured that it might be best not to litter up currently played MMOs with scads of alts but instead hop over to a title I haven’t seriously played since (checks) 2020 and dither about on a new toon.

And so I’ve come back to Guild Wars 2, at least casually. It’s a good game to be casual in, especially if you’re just logging on for a bit to map out a zone. I figure that can keep me busy for a good long while, and if it’s proving sticky — which is dependent on a good guild and whether the game is gelling with me — then I can move on to the living world/expansions.

I actually did have End of Dragons unlocked on this account (which I had forgotten) along with tons and tons of birthday gifts, free store unlocks, and other goodies. As usual for coming back to a previously heavily played MMO, I had a whole lot of inventory management to sort out on the first night.

Following that, I rolled up a fresh character — a Ranger with whom I’m using the reappropriated name of Eoan Echo. It’s been a long, long time since I played a Ranger, and a simple pet/ranged class seemed perfect for what I was looking for. I very much appreciate how GW2 allows you to instantly use all of your account-wide unlocked skins, mounts, pets, outfits, wardrobe, etc. on a new character.

Speaking of looks, I fished around to find the perfect ensemble for this character. I settled on the Arctic Explorer outfit with some funky dyes, married with a Fox Fire longbow. I’m sure I’m not winning any originality awards, but I like the combo.

Yeah, I’m number one! I’m number one! I’m… oh, you’re testing the wind? Whoops. Let my ego get away from me, there.

My plan, such as it is, is to alternate between mapping and going through the main storyline (personal and then living world/expansions) roughly in order. The full Ascelon tour. This meant that my first stop was the oh-so-familiar Queensdale and Divinity’s Reach. I had kind of forgotten how chatty the NPCs are in this game (and fully voiced, kudos to the team for that) as I zip on by them.

Divinity’s Reach is still an amazing city as it ever was. Great sightlines, fun architecture, big without letting you get lost.

Hey, even a swamp can be pretty under the right light!

I did experience a moment or two of Engineer envy, so I logged in to say hi to Rain Bunny, who I left somewhere in Season 2. She’s looking suitable for this fantasy world, yeah?

Posted in Guild Wars

Why can’t I get more enthusiastic about Guild Wars 2?

Normally, the onset of a new expansion for a past favorite MMORPG is, at the very least, a siren’s call to come back and get excited all over again. Guild Wars 2 is on the cusp of finally delivering Cantha in its first expansion in years… and I’m honestly having a really hard time summoning genuine enthusiasm for it.

This puzzles me greatly. While I don’t have any strong fondness for Cantha from Guild Wars 1, I have to admit that the cyberpunk city stylings of the expansion look incredibly neat. I’d totally agree with anyone who said that this is a good direction for the game to go right now, especially to drive up engagement in a community that’s been starving for good new content for years now. And Guild Wars 2 always is an easy game to slip back into and enjoy.

Yet I’m not quite there. I’ve spent the last week repeatedly logging in to try out different characters and classes — some new, some old — in the hopes of finding something that connected in a strong way and got me pumped about playing again. I’ve been poking my head into a couple of different guilds, looking for that social stickiness. I’ve made a mental list of GW2’s good points that I’ve always enjoyed (wardrobe, mounts, mapping, UI design).

But I’m not there. Yet. I’m not going to force it, but I’m also not going to give up right now. Sometimes coming back to a game requires the right approach so you’re not setting yourself up for burnout, and if I’m going to play Guild Wars 2 for any length of time, that’s the way it needs to be done.

I don’t put all the blame on my weird gaming quirks and idiosyncrasies, however. From where I’m sitting, ArenaNet hasn’t really crafted a “must experience” expansion. I’m sure it’ll be solid, but it’s lacking that “I MUST PLAY IT NOWWWW” feature set. I mean, when your bullet point list of strengths peter out in “mumble mumble fishing and flat little boats,” then maybe it’s time to return to conference room and drum up something that’ll really get everyone going.

I’ve seen several people express similar levels of apathy over End of Dragons — and not in a mean way, just in a sadly wistful, “I wish this really had me super excited right now” sort of way. With so much going on this February, it’s easy to put GW2 on the backburner.

I don’t know. I’ll keep poking at it, and I’m waiting to hear testimonies from trusted friends when the expansion launches to see if it’s something worth a buy down the road.

Posted in A Week In..., Guild Wars

A Week in Guild Wars 2: A Mesmer, mapping

Welcome to a new series here at Bio Break called “A Week In…!” The idea here is to encourage myself to branch out into MMOs (and various other online titles) that I haven’t ever played or played in a while by putting them in my personal spotlight for a full week. Every day (except Saturday), as best I can, I’ll jump into these games, spend a bit of time playing and screenshotting, and add to an illustrated journal about my experiences to share with you the following week.

Why? For a few reasons: To explore past my regular games, to get a fun post out of it, to get some stories to share on the MOP podcast, and to touch base with titles that I don’t see for long periods of time. For our inaugural edition, I’ll be spending a week in Guild Wars 2. Was going to do it anyway and had it all set up to go, so I figured this would be a nice, easy point of entry!

Sunday: While I was mostly set up to get back into playing this character, a stop over at Divinity’s Reach was in order to buy some ascended jewelry for my Mesmer. I had something like 652 laurels, thanks to daily logins, so I wasn’t hurting for currency. I got some new rings and a necklace, but the earrings required globs of ecto that I lacked. Guess that could be a nice long-term goal.

I only have 24% world completion on this character, so there are plenty of zones left to uncover. I started with an easy lowbie one — Kessex Hills — and got to work. I needed some very familiar and relatively tame landscape to get reacquainted with the Mesmer’s weird skills. The hardest thing for me to get into my head was the use of gliding and mounts, both of which I had and kept forgetting to use when I needed them. I won’t tell you how many times I face-planted off of a hill instead of gliding gracefully down.

Monday: Little things I’m remembering that I like about Guild Wars 2: Remote looting with the “F” key. Instant mounting. Getting extra XP for mobs that haven’t been killed in a while. Multiple ways to accomplish heart objectives. Fighting your way out of a downed condition.

I was having a real hard time getting back into the groove of using a one-handed sword and pistol — it all felt awkward to me — so I ran back to a trading post, pawned some mystic coins, and bought myself a greatsword to do some MAJOR LAZER BEAM ACTION. It was… okay. I always struggle with the Memser because I like the *idea* of the class better than how it actually functions, which is “all over the place and weird.”

Beginning to regret not rolling up a new character, like a Thief or something I haven’t played to death.

Tuesday: The greatsword is a bit more workable as a Mesmer weapon, although there’s one of those ground-targetable skills that I hate. I always lose sight of where the cursor is on the screen and hate having to get it into the right position before activating an ability. Just say no to ground-target skills!

Anyway, today I stumbled across a rift, and as we all well know, when you encounter some mystical portal to realms unknown, you dive into it headfirst. Turned out that it was a big champion boss bug looking for some smackdown, so a-smacking I went. It was here that I learned how quickly a Mesmer can — and will — die. I’m squishier than an overripe banana that’s gone all black.

Wednesday: As I continue to map (and battle the odd Champion mob that wandered into my orbit), I once again felt that weird dichotomy that inhabits much of this game. That is to say, the activities are pleasant in and of themselves, but the rewards are lacking. Filling out a heart, for example, spits out a bit of money, XP, and karma my way (and unlocks vendors that aren’t that useful for anything). Killing that big spider mob champion up there gave me a backpack with some crafting gear in it and a piece of armor that I’ll break down into even more crafting items.

And I get that this is how Guild Wars 2 is designed — that the focus is far more on “you make the stuff with the random bits we throw your way” and “your gear is going to stay the same, more or less, forever.” But it doesn’t make looting fun. I’m getting tons of stuff, sure, but that stuff is mostly meaningless to me. I’m not really looking forward to the next drop or getting the dopamine hit off of seeing an orange tag on a piece of gear. It’s all just gristle for the mill.

Thursday: I can tell you that by Thursday, I wasn’t that pleased to see the login screen any longer. It wasn’t that any of this was bad, per se, but I really wasn’t feeling the Guild Wars 2 vibe the way I would need to in order to play for the long haul. That’s why it was mentally comforting to know that I had only committed for a week. Right about now, I’m eyeing that ejection lever.

I did run back to Rata Sum to buy a staff, because why not spend the session experimenting with a different weapon skillset? I will say that out of the three different weapon setups I’ve tried this week, this one I like the best. Chaos armor and chaos storm are a whole lot of fun to use, and I love how the basic attack ping-pongs between bad guys..

Friday: About halfway through this week, I knew how I wanted to end it, which was to make a new character. If and when I come back to Guild Wars 2, I want something to look forward to playing (and I know from this week that the Mesmer ain’t going to be it). So I whipped up a new Thief with an old name, Photon Jammer. I envision that she’ll be a two-pistol gunslinger, something straightforward and fun. So I got through her character creation process (which is still one of the best in the industry) and parked her in the intro zone for a future adventure.

And that’s it for A Week in Guild Wars 2! I like this format so far, as it lets me have some fun and play around without forcing myself to hit a time-heavy goal. I hope you enjoyed it too.

Posted in Guild Wars

Guild Wars 2: The echo of a dawn

There’s certainly been an upswing in interest in Guild Wars 2 lately — and that’s no surprise, as ArenaNet recently unveiled details on the first expansion since 2017’s Path of Fire. With MMORPGs, it always, always matters if the community sees a game as being actively developed or dead in the water, because far fewer people are going to invest time in the latter. So after some dormancy there, GW2 appears on the upswing again, and that’s good for all interested parties.

Am I an interested party? Perhaps. I’m at this stage where I’m willing to be convinced. As I said, the End of Dragons reveal didn’t exactly bowl me over (nor did it many other people I talked with). It was “fine” but not must-have-this-NOW exciting. But it’s usually a good time to get back into an MMO when it’s ramping up to an expansion, because you know that there’s going to be a lot of chatter, focus, and returning involvement with the game.

I figured that it couldn’t hurt to dust off an old character and poke back in now and then. The really nice thing about GW2 is that it never feels like a huge time commitment to me. I’m most interested in mapping anyway, so that can be done at my leisure with no rush.

For a character, I decided to go with one of my more underutilized members of my roster, Eoan Echo, a Mesmer. I like her look and theming, and figure that I’ve already played the Necro and Engie to death at this point. Pink butterflies it is.

But before getting her going, there was a whole lot of maintenance that had to be done. My account’s been accumulating scads of stuff thanks to daily logins that haven’t been sorted. No lie, it took me two hours to get inventory issues straightened out, stuff sold, relevant stuff (like free dyes or skins) used, items transferred over, and so on. My bank was a hideous mess, and I got ruthless with chucking stuff that didn’t need to be there.

For a hot minute there, I felt a desire to completely start over with a new account, like I did with WoW a few years back. I know, it would be idiotic to do so — the price tag is not going to make this a possibility — but there’s something appealing about getting all of those unlocks again and building up from scratch.

Instead, I’ll be continuing my mapping journey while building up my bank account, buying gems, and amusing myself with whatever short session plays I give this.

Posted in Guild Wars

Is Cantha enough draw for Guild Wars 2?

Amid that whole Blizzard mess of last week was the full reveal of Guild Wars 2’s third expansion, End of Dragons. One can only hope that this will, indeed, be an end of the dragons, because that’s something that this MMO has run into the ground and sorely needs to move past.

Overall, it was a good reveal. Guild Wars 2 has had a very rough couple of years, but now it feels like it’s emerging with solid visible leadership, a big product for people to get excited about, and hope for the future. It’s one of those games that fell from glory a while back and needed a win. It’s too early to say if Cantha will be that win, but at least this is a nice boost of publicity and community excitement.

And good for Guild Wars 2, you know? I’ve had my ups and downs with this game, but I’ve never been at a point where I didn’t want it to win. There are many great features and designs, and it’s an easy game to return to. I’m sure this press reveal is stirring a lot of returns right now, because there’s nothing like an MMO coming alive again with a promise of big future stuff to call back the faithful.

As for the expansion reveal itself, I guess I’m a “5” out of a 1 to 10 scale. Right squat in the middle. To be honest, Cantha itself has never been a huge draw for me, both in the original Guild Wars or here. I know it has this rabid cult following, but I’m not part of that.

I was hoping that we’d get some news about some really exciting features — housing, for instance, no pun intended — but this reveal stopped short of dangling something that made me say, “Now I’ve GOT to play it!” There’s some new mount types, ok. Fishing? Yeah, that’s so underwhelming a feature that the only time I see someone hyping it up is a developer who needs another bullet point for a feature list. Some more story, some new elite specs, a whole lot of “more of the same.”

That’s not necessarily bad. Guild Wars 2 needed more ANYthing at this point, and this looks to be a full package. The skiffs — player boats? — is the most interesting-sounding of all of the features.

I’m looking at this expansion and feeling the equal pulls of apathy toward GW2 and the usual FOMO of a community rushing toward the bright new shiny. But it’s going to be warring with a lot of releases and launches for the rest of 2021 — and End of Dragons’ 2022 date is far past that. Perhaps it’ll be a revisit later this year or early next year to see if the Guild Wars 2 bug might bite again, but that’s a big “perhaps” with me.

Posted in Elder Scrolls Online, Guild Wars

How Elder Scrolls Online and Guild Wars 2 share the same great feature

One of the absolute best design elements that went into Guild Wars 2 was in creating its maps and how players would interact with zones. Choosing to ditch the hub-quest model, GW2 elected to create zones with all sorts of icons to encourage exploration and interaction. Filling out a GW2 map is deeply satisfying by finishing up all of the hearts, points of interest, vistas, and the like. I appreciated that it allowed me to set my own course and follow my curiosity rather than a rigid path.

While Elder Scrolls Online isn’t exactly the same, the two MMOs share a lot of similarities in their zone designs. ESO also has quests, POIs, mini-dungeons, sky shards, and waystones all over the place, and the player is pretty free to meander in whatever fashion is thought best.

The newish (well, not so new now) zone finder screen is a big help in giving players checklists and starting points for all of the optional activities. If I want to spend the day sky shard hunting or making sure I’ve done every last quest line, this screen gives me a visual indicator as to my progress (and some clues as well).

My Glenumbra meanderings are about at an end. I really am setting no speed records for completing zones, but I’m having a very good time even so. One of the last things I did was to go back and wrap up dungeon delves, which I had neglected originally. Each of these are small public dungeons with a boss tucked somewhere inside, and it’s a nice solo option to jump into one and check off that tickbox without a huge time investment.

It just makes every zone that I haven’t done feel like it’s a gift box that I get to unwrap and enjoy a bit at a time. Hm. Maybe a better analogy is a box of chocolates, savoring one bite of content at a time. Whatever, it’s lunch, and I’m hungry.

And hey, I’m level 50! My very first in Elder Scrolls Online, so Champion Point grind, here I come!

Posted in Guild Wars

Guild Wars 2: Cheerful necromancy

If there’s one overriding directive when it comes to how I’m approaching Guild Wars 2 this time around, it’s to keep things casual and carefree. I’m not pushing myself hard toward any huge goals, I’m simply enjoying the pursuit of smaller goals in whatever fashion I please.

And it pleased me to switch classes up the other day from the Engineer back to my Necro, Yeti Yesterday. Her namesake started out in the original Guild Wars, and I’m happy to have her present for the sequel as well. While the Engineer was fine, I was craving a mob of pets, and it was either this or the (still unplayed by me) Elementalist. Plus, I love Yeti Yesterday’s look and build. It’s really relaxing to just throw down marks and watch pets swarm all over the bad guys. Kind of feels a little unfair to them, but hey, I need the loot.

The only downside to switching over to her is that she had less accomplished. I spent a few days finishing up her personal storyline and then began to hack away at the end of season 2. As she now has the mounts that I’ve unlocked from Path of Fire, I’m not as much in a rush to return to that expansion, but I suppose I should to rank up those beasts.

But for the most part, I like to log in and just clear out map after map. With the mounts, it’s a lot less problematic than it used to be, and I keep rediscovering over and over how photogenic this game is. Seriously, it’s hard NOT to take ridiculously attractive pictures. I liked this above shot of a statue looming above the Norn city while the snow falls around it.

I also took a brief holiday into the Super Adventure Box hub, although that was mostly out of curiosity than a desire to play it. I’m horrible at jumping puzzles and platforming, so SAB isn’t really my thing, but I love the theming. And check out the critter parade! That made my day to witness it.